Last week, Bob Grimm was told he had some explaining to do.
State Superintendent Mick Zais visited the North Charleston High principal and ordered him to appear before the South Carolina Board of Education to argue why, exactly, the state should allow his school to remain open.
North Charleston High is in danger of a state takeover, closure or change in leadership because of low performance and a failure to meet accountability requirements. Which is educrat speak for too many failing kids, and too many who don't graduate.
It's a tough spot for Grimm, particularly since he faced a ton of criticism last summer when he was appointed to the position. Community leaders, an education panel and the NAACP said Grimm wasn't qualified.
Some of them say this is proof that they were right. And that is baloney.
North Charleston High has serious problems, and did long before Grimm arrived. Nearly half the kids who showed up for class this year were at least two grade levels behind in their reading skills. Many don't have the parental support to emphasize the need for a good education. And the school has had no continuity in leadership — eight principals in 11 years.
It doesn't need a ninth.
Can't accept average
Since Grimm moved to North Charleston High, test scores at his former school — C.E. Williams Middle — show that he made real improvements there. He jokes that that only means he knows how to surround himself with good people. But that's important.
“I'm not the savior, but I have some of the best teachers in the district and the kids love 'em,” Grimm says. “I want them and need them to be excellent. If they aren't, they won't be here. We can't accept average.”
It is too soon to tell if Grimm will make a difference at North Charleston High. It would be foolish to expect miracles, but the turnover at principal suggests some people do just that.
There are some encouraging signs. Attendance, while still not great, is better than it has been in more than a decade. And suspensions and expulsions — never below 5 percent — now hover at 1.1 percent.
That's a start.
Too much at stake
Late last week, Grimm sat at his desk and reached for a nearly empty bottle of Tums.
He has a tough job, but Grimm says he is exactly where he wants to be.
“I don't mind trying and failing, but I refuse to fail here,” he says. “There's too much at stake. Not for me, for the students.”
He is absolutely right. Even Zais noted that the district is committed to improving the school. But a revolving door in the principal's office isn't the answer, obviously. It's time to stick out a decision — and it would be good if some of those Grimm critics pitched in and tried to help the school.
Grimm will be the first person to tell you that this is too big of a problem for one man. But he is working hard, and he has one qualification that doesn't show up on his resume: He cares.
So give him a hand, and give him a chance.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.